This is a repost of my original Retribution guide, updated and improved for the new 3.0 patch and Wrath of the Lich King. It is, as always, a work in progress, so please feel free to add any questions, corrections, or feedback you have. The emphasis of this guide is on PvE raiding. I don't make a huge deal out of PvP, so if you want to learn to smash faces in Battlegrounds or Arenas, there are better guides available.
Note: This guide is currently geared towards level 70. When Wrath of the Lich King has been out for a while and players start getting used to their level 80 abilities and gear, I'll update it accordingly. Also, it is not final. I will update it with any changes between now and the final expansion patch.
Updated for 3.0.3
Q: What is a Retribution Paladin?
A: Retribution is the melee damage talent spec of the Paladin class. It deals a good mix of Physical and Holy damage, and has excellent raid synergy. It is virtually useless at range, as its primary abilities max out at 10 yards. It can cleanse debuffs and heal in a pinch, and is very self-sufficient, rarely needing mana or healing support unless it is the focus of direct damage. It also comes with the full suite of standard Paladin class abilities, such as Blessings, Auras, the new Hand spells, OOC rez, Divine Intervention, Lay on Hands, etc.
Q: What changed from 2.4 to 3.0 for Retribution?
A: The spec went from being third-rate DPS with subpar raid synergy to an absolute powerhouse, dishing out impressive damage plus acting as a health and mana battery. More specifically:
- The Judgement system is revamped to make it simpler to debuff and DPS at the same time.
- Seals can now proc on all melee attacks, not just white damage.
- 30% of Attack Power is converted to Spell Power, giving a significant boost to healing and improving many kinds of talent/ability synergy. (Sheath of Light)
- Most damaging abilities now scale with both Attack Power and Spell Power, dramatically improving many abilities that previously had very poor scaling for Retribution.
- The new 51-point talent, Divine Storm, hits 4 nearby targets for Physical damage, with a group healing effect packed in. It's a vital addition to the Retribution skill set.
- Sanctity Aura is gone, bequeathing most of its raid synergy to Retribution Aura, which also now scales with Spell Power.
- Auras are now raid-wide.
- Judgements now restore mana to both the Paladin and the raid group as a whole. Yes, Paladins are now mana batteries. (Judgements of the Wise)
- Hit rating, crit rating, haste rating, and crit from most talents now also applies to spells, further buffing previously disregarded abilities.
- Critical hits with Judgements, Crusader Strike, and Divine Storm grant an instant Flash of Light. (The Art of War)
- There are no longer any Retribution DPS abilities with a cast time, so interrupting the swing timer is a non-issue, unless you need to heal without a proc from The Art of War. (Note: The instant Flash of Light from The Art of War may still reset the swing timer; this is not confirmed.)
- Avenging Wrath no longer invokes Forbearance, so it's possible to have it up and Divine Shield at the same time - or at the least you don't have to worry about screwing yourself if you use AW.
- Crusader Strike no longer refreshes Judgements on the mob - in fact, Judgements no longer refresh from anything including normal melee hits. Given the change to the Judgements mechanics, this isn't really a major nerf.
- Repentance now lasts 1 minute (from 6 seconds), making it a respectable, albeit limited CC.
Q: What raid buffs/debuffs does a Retribution Paladin provide?
A: Here's a fairly comprehensive list. Note that the new raid synergy system means that many of these buffs overlap other class abilities, so it's no longer necessary to stack the raid. Where available, this will be indicated.
- All Judgements apply an additional debuff increasing critical strike chance against the Judged mob by 3%. (Totem of Wrath)
- Judgements apply the Replenishment buff to up to ten raid members with the lowest mana by percent, restoring 0.25% of max mana each second over 10 seconds. (Vampiric Touch, Hunting Party)
- Improved Blessing of Might for additional AP for Hunters and melee classes. (Battle Shout/Improved Battle Shout)
- Retribution Aura applies a raid-wide 2% damage increase (Ferocious Inspiration) and a 3% haste increase (Improved Moonkin Aura).
- Divine Storm heals up to 3 nearby party/raid members for 20% of the damage it inflicts.
- If specced for it, Vindication grants a chance on hit to reduce enemy stats by up to 20% (? Sting); this is not effective on most bosses and many raid mobs, and is generally considered a PvP talent.
- Like all Paladins, Retribution brings various additional Blessings and Auras, plus Cleanse, Hand of Freedom, Hand of Protection, Hand of Sacrifice, and Hand of Salvation to assist with threat management, dispels, and damage mitigation. Lay on Hands no longer drains all mana (and its cooldown is reduced to 20 minutes) so it's a good emergency healing tool, and Divine Intervention can be used for wipe recovery.
- The Paladin's Hand of Freedom spell can also be specced to remove stuns; this also is usually taken in a PvP spec, not PvE.
Q: What gear does a Retribution Paladin use?
A: All DPS plate wearers in 3.0 will share the same basic gear and stats, with a few variations. The main variation for Retribution is that Haste rating is not quite as valuable to you as it is for Warriors. You can use Enhancement Shaman/Hunter gear if you absolutely have to, but it's no longer as useful due to the balance changes in 3.0 - i.e., you no longer need to worry about Intellect or mp5, and you want plate to help with damage mitigation if necessary. See the next question for information about weapons.
Q: What kind of weapon should I use?
A: The choice of weapon defines the Retribution Paladin every bit as much as any other melee DPS class, if not more. What you want is simply the slowest weapon possible. In this case, top-end damage is even more important than base DPS - a 100 DPS weapon with a 2.8 speed may be inferior statistically to a 90 DPS weapon with 3.8 speed. This is because many of the Paladin's most damaging special attacks (Crusader Strike, Seal of Command, and Divine Storm) derive their base effect from the Paladin's weapon damage, independent of attack speed. Even given attack speed normalization from AP, you still get more bang for your buck from a bigger top-end than from a higher DPS value. This is even more true in 3.0 than it was in 2.4. Your second priority in selecting a weapon should be its stats - see the next section for details.
If you're a Human, you want to try to get a sword or mace if possible, since the human racial grants 3 Expertise with those types of weapons.
Q: How does a Retribution Paladin deal its damage?
A: It depends somewhat on the nature of the fight; a CC-intensive battle may restrict the Paladin's freedom to use his/her AoE abilities. However, from testing on PTRs, you'll end up with 25-30% of damage coming from your melee autoattack (white damage) and the rest from your special abilities. Autoattack, Crusader Strike, and Divine Storm deal Physical damage, while all other abilities deal Holy damage. Holy damage is not mitigated by armor, and most mobs have no resistance to Holy damage other than the standard base amount from their level difference. This offsets the fact that there are no raid buffs that directly increase Holy damage. The below example figures are derived from a damage meter run when soloing a level 62 dungeon:
- 25%-30%: Divine Storm
20-25%: Melee autoattack
15-20%: Seal of Command
10-15%: Crusader Strike
Q: Which is better, Seal of the Martyr/Seal of Blood, or Seal of Command?
A: In 2.4, Seal of Blood was distinctly superior as it offered higher DPS and the damage it did to you was actually useful, as you can get mana back by being healed. In 3.0, Seal of Command is quite competitive, especially when you consider that you no longer need healing as a source of mana regen in raids, so the self-inflicted damage from Blood/Martyr is not as useful. Theorycraft suggests that the actual difference in DPS between these two abilities is affected strongly by weapon speed. The slower your weapon, the better Command is. If you are in a situation where there isn't a lot of general raid damage and you find yourself going OOM even with a strict Judgement rotation, consider using Martyr/Blood to boost your mana recovery. Be careful, though, because it's embarassing to kill yourself with the backlash.
Retribution Paladins are intended to derive approximately the same value from itemization as Arms/Fury Warriors and Death Knights. Due to the Attack Power to Spell Power conversion offered by the Sheath of Light talent, you will get more than enough Spell Power for your needs simply by adding AP. Another important consideration is that, since critical strike rating now also applies to spells, its benefit has increased significantly versus Agility alone. You can replenish your own mana very easily, so Intellect and mp5 are now basically worthless.
- Strength - Get this over pure attack power, because AP = 2x Strength, and you get up to a 15% bonus from Divine Strength, plus up to 10% more from Blessing of Kings if it's available. That means every base point of Strength is worth up to 2.5 AP.
- Attack Power - See above. You prefer Strength, but AP is good too.
- Critical Strike Rating - Critical hits are essential to the design of the Retribution Paladin, as they proc your Vengeance and The Art of War talents, plus Divine Storm crits also increase the healing that ability delivers. Critical heals also gain an additional HoT effect from Sheath of Light. Since Critical Strike Rating also applies to spells, it's actually better than Agility now.
- Hit Rating - You need 132 Hit Rating (at level 70) to never miss with a melee or special attack. You can benefit from as much as 214 so you can cap your spells as well, but most of your attacks are based on melee hit rather than spell hit. You have no talents to boost hit, so it'll have to come from your gear. At level 80, these values are 282 and 446, respectively.
- Expertise - Expertise is as valuable as Hit Rating for raid DPS and twice as valuable for solo play. Theorycraft suggests an effective cap of 91 rating points (189 at level 80) to reach 23 Expertise, the amount needed to negate Dodge from most mobs. Parry is a different matter entirely and is known to be higher than Dodge for bosses; however, you should strive to attack from behind wherever possible, as mobs cannot parry attacks from the rear. Humans wielding a sword or mace get 3 Expertise for free, or the equivalent of 12 Expertise Rating at 70.
- Stamina - You want enough health to survive what encounters will throw at you. Fortunately, plate is generally well supplied with this attribute. There is no need to gem or enchant specifically for it, though, especially since you can heal yourself with The Art of War and Divine Storm.
- Agility - Less valuable than Critical Strike Rating since it applies to spells as well now, Agility is still valuable, both as a fallback source of crit and to improve your Dodge, which is a big help when soloing or in PvP.
- Haste Rating - Haste rating is mainly effective on your autoattack (white damage), and has an indirect benefit on your Seals. For Retribution, it falls below both hit and crit ratings in terms of desirability. It improves if you choose Seal of the Martyr/Seal of Blood over Seal of Command, but the addition of Divine Storm further deemphasizes haste as a useful stat.
- Armor Penetration - Given the mix of Physical and Holy damage that you do, Armor Penetration is a second-rate attribute. Warriors and Rogues love it because it affects all their direct damage abilities, but it affects just over half of yours. It's valuable but not worth getting over anything else.
- Armor - Without a shield, you won't have enough armor to survive pulling a boss' aggro for more than a second, but you'll generally find more of the stats you prefer on plate than on any other armor type. It's also useful to help with mitigation if you find yourself offtanking trash, whether deliberately or by accident.
- Intellect - You should no longer have to worry about going OOM in 3.0, plus your mana regen is not Int-based, so you can basically ignore this stat.
- Mana per 5 seconds - Between Judgements of the Wise, Judgement of Wisdom, and Replenishment, you can safely ignore mp5 on gear.
- Spell Power - This stat is no longer necessary for Retribution, as you get it from Attack Power. The only plate you'll find with spell power in 3.0 is geared for Holy Paladins and does have some Crit Rating on it, so it's not completely useless, but... yeah, it's pretty useless. (You will want a second gear set for healing, however.)
- Spirit - You will never be outside the 5-second rule in a serious fight, and you have no talent for Spirit-based regeneration while casting.
- Defense/Avoidance - You aren't a tank. Not even close. Some Dodge and Parry* are nice for PvP or if you offtank in 5-mans, but keep a separate gear set if you need to be a meat shield for specific encounters.
* Note on Parry - you get a speed boost on your next melee swing after successfully parrying an attack (this is why Deflection is in the Retribution tree). In a raid, you shouldn't be getting hit, so it's a moot point, but it can be very valuable for PvP and soloing.
Enchants and Gems
This section will be rewritten once the expansion comes out and I have an opportunity to review the level 80 enchants and gems.
- Red Socket: Strength or Strength/Hit Rating, if you aren't hit capped.
- Yellow Socket: Strength/Hit Rating, if you aren't hit capped, Strength/Crit Rating otherwise.
- Blue Socket: Strength/Stamina is good if you need the socket bonus; one of the others if you don't.
- Meta: Crit/Crit damage (name?).
- Weapon: As of this moment, there's a fairly serious debate between Mongoose and Executioner as the best Retribution weapon enchants. With the increased value of crit in 3.0 and the greater amount of Holy damage vs. Physical damage in the Retribution rotation, Mongoose is looking much nicer, except that Haste isn't as valuable as it was (sigh). Savagery is a good alternative, though, especially considering the AP->SP conversion.
- Head: AP/Hit Rating is probably the best now; although Strength/Intellect (Glyph of the Outcast) isn't too bad, it's been made partially obsolete by 3.0.
- Shoulders: Both the Aldor and Scryer melee DPS enchants are valuable.
- Cloak: Probably Agility now
- Chest: Exceptional Stats, no questions asked
- Bracer: Strength
- Gloves: Strength
- Legs: Cobrahide Leg Armor
- Boots: Surefooted
- Rings: Attack Power, if you can do it.
Of the Glyphs available to Paladins, the following Major Glyphs benefit Retribution specifically. You get 2 Major Glyph slots at level 70 and 3 at level 80. At level 70, I recommend the following:
- Glyph of Judgement (Req. lvl. 15) - Your Judgements deal 10% more damage.
Glyph of Seal of Command (Req. lvl. 20) - Increases the chance of dealing Seal of Command damage by 20%.
- Glyph of Avenging Wrath (Req. lvl. 70) - Reduces the cooldown of your Hammer of Wrath spell by 50% while Avenging Wrath is active.
Glyph of Crusader Strike (Req. lvl. 20) - Your Crusader strike costs 20% less mana.
Glyph of Seal of Blood (Req. lvl. 50) - Your Seal of Blood or Seal of the Martyr increases the mana received from Spiritual Attunement by 10% while active.
In this section, I will cover those talents that are specifically useful for Retribution. This includes the entire Ret tree and some elements of Protection and Holy.
- Seals of the Pure - Increases the damage of your Seal of Righteousness, Seal of Corruption, Seal of Vengeance, and their Judgement effects by up to 15%. This talent is geared more towards Holy and Protection than towards Retribution, since it buffs seals that you won't normally use.
- Blessing of Kings/Improved Blessing of Kings - Kings now requires 5 talent points to get to its original 10% effect, but it's at the top of the Protection tree instead of buried 3 levels deep. This is an optional talent in as much as you can expect Holy and/or Protection to pick it up... or maybe not. At 70 it's hard to justify points spent here.
- Divine Strength - Now 15% for 5 talent points and moved to Protection, this is as solid a DPS booster as it's ever been; the only problem is that you probably won't be able to max it at 70, as it vies with Crusade for those "optional" talent points. At 80, you should be able to fit it in.
- Deflection - 5% increased Parry chance is a very solid PvP choice, as your next hit lands faster after you parry an attack. It's marginally useful when soloing and basically worthless as a raid talent because you don't want mobs to be hitting you at all.
- Benediction - 10% mana cost reduction for pretty much every one of your abilities. With a low base mana pool, every little bit of cost savings helps.
- Improved Judgements - 2 second reduction in Judgement cooldowns means a slight DPS increase, but it also means faster mana returns from Judgements of the Wise. It used to be a good investment; now it's absolutely essential.
- Heart of the Crusader - All Judgements also increase the critical strike chance versus the target by 3%. This is one of the first Retribution raid synergy talents and it's a very useful one.
- Improved Blessing of Might - This is the basic buff to the Retribution Paladin's core Blessing. However, Might now shares a raid synergy slot with Battle Shout. Whether to choose this talent or not really depends on how you feel about the extra 100 or so AP it provides (at level 80). The reduction to 2 talent points is nice, though.
- Vindication - This is much more of a PvP talent than PvE; a 20% reduction to all stats makes very little difference to boss DPS, assuming they're vulnerable to it at all.
- Conviction - 5% more critical strike chance, applying to all attacks now (not just melee). This is a core, must-have talent.
- Seal of Command - This is the first core Retribution DPS ability: a chance on any melee hit to proc 45% of weapon damage as Holy damage - this includes Crusader Strike and Divine Storm. The Judgement effect also automatically crits against stunned or incapacitated mobs. I'll discuss it more under combat mechanics.
- Pursuit of Justice - For 2 points, this talent now boosts your speed by up to 15% and reduces the duration of Disarm effects by up to 50%. It's a skippable talent given its place on the tree, and the removal of spell hit chance reduction relegates it strongly to PvP.
- Eye for an Eye - Slightly improved to work on all critical hits, it's still next to useless for PvE given that, on normal mobs, their crits aren't enough to generate a useful return; and on raid mobs, you don't want them critting you at all.
- Sanctified Seals - Adds 3% crit chance with all abilities and makes your Seals undispellable. It's worth more as a PvP talent than a PvE one, but it's still very nice to pick up.
- Crusade - Rather significantly buffed, this talent now delivers a core 3% damage increase as well as an extra 3% on some very common types of targets. It's also been hinted that it improves haste by 3% as a hidden benefit.
- Two Handed Weapon Specialization - 6% increased weapon damage when wielding a two hander. A solid talent that affects all melee attacks - you can't beat it.
- Sanctified Retribution - 2% boost to your own damage as well as your entire raid when Retribution Aura is active. This is one of the most valuable talent points you can spend.
- Divine Purpose - Reduces chance to be hit by spells by 2/4% and gives Hand of Freedom a 50/100% chance to remove stun effects. This one is kind of situational, and is really aimed at PvP, but the effect on Hand of Freedom could see use in some fights.
- Vengeance - This talent is where the Paladin's DPS starts scaling up. For 3 points, each time you crit, you get a stacking buff that improves all damage by 3% for 30 seconds, stacking up to 3 times. It's been nerfed a bit (from 15% to 9% at max), but also costs less talent points than in 2.4.
- Improved Retribution Aura - Now that Retribution Aura scales to AP/SP, a 50% increase to it is not a small thing, especially when you realize that the aura now benefits the entire raid.
- The Art of War - Increases damage of Judgements and Divine Storm by 25% and critical hits from these abilities and Crusader Strike make the next Flash of Light spell cast within 15 seconds instant. This is a crucial talent in 3.0, in that it allows you to heal yourself following a crit without interrupting your melee swing timer and without risk of being interrupted. Combined with Divine Storm, additional healing should rarely be necessary while grinding or when taking incidental group/raid damage.
- Repentance - Instant cast incapacitate on a Humanoid target, 1 minute duration, 1 minute cooldown. It's now a great CC ability, but similar to Sap in that it can't be reapplied quickly if it breaks, meaning that your tanks must be on the ball to pick up the loose mob. It can be recast in combat, however.
- Judgements of the Wise - Your Judgements return 15% of your base mana, and apply the Replenishment effect, granting up to nearby 10 party/raid members 0.25% of their maximum mana per second for 10 seconds. This is an absolutely critical talent and forms the core of Retribution longevity in 3.0.
- Fanaticism - Increases critical strike chance of all Judgements by 25% and reduces threat from all abilities by 30% while Righteous Fury is not active. Still a core group/raid DPS talent, the additional Judgement critical strike chance is enormously useful since The Art of War procs on Judgement crits.
- Sanctified Wrath - Increases critical strike chance of Hammer of Wrath by 50%, reduces cooldown on Avenging Wrath by 60 sec (to 2 mins), and 50% of damage done while Avenging Wrath is up bypasses damage reduction effects. This is a critical talent for deep Retribution DPS, dramatically improving burst damage, especially late in a fight.
- Swift Retribution - Adds 3% haste to your Retribution Aura, sharing a synergy slot with Improved Moonkin Aura. Despite the fact that haste isn't all that good for you, it's great for just about everyone else in the raid.
- Crusader Strike - Deals 110% of weapon damage as Physical damage with a 6 second cooldown. Just like Seal of Command, it scales with the base damage of your weapon. It's also treated as a melee ability, not a spell, so it can be used when silenced. For 1 point, it's a solid DPS talent, and it's a great fallback ability when you can't Divine Storm due to CC. Still, Divine Storm pushes this downwards in your rotation priority.
- Sheath of Light - 30% of your Attack Power adds to your Spell Power, and critical heals heal for an additional 60% of their effect over 12 seconds. Basically, this new talent is yet another core Retribution ability, and it adds a really nice bonus to your heals (even more so if you have to strap on healing gear for a particular fight).
- Righteous Vengeance - Your critical strikes with Judgements, Crusader Strike, and Divine Storm cause an additional 60% of their damage over 12 seconds. This damage does not break Repentance. Overhauled dramatically in 3.0.3, you are giving up burst damage in exchange for a potentially huge DoT. It remains to be seen how stacking will work.
- Divine Storm - Deals weapon damage as Physical damage to up to 4 targets within 8 yards, and heals up to 3 nearby party/raid members for 20% of the total damage dealt. 10 sec cooldown. Divine Storm has seen the biggest overall nerf since 3.0 launched, changed from Holy to Physical damage and with the massive critical strike damage bonus from talents removed. It's still one of the best 51-pointers in the game, just not quite as stupidly OP as it used to be.
Sample talent specs
There is a core set of talents that give the highest DPS and utility returns for the cost. The only question is where to put the remaining points. In the level 70 build, you obviously have to be more conservative. The below builds include all "mandatory" talents and give my impression of which "optional" ones are the most worthwhile.
Blessing of Kings (because it may be covered by other Paladins), Divine Strength (you should try to max this but may not be able to at 70), Improved Blessing of Might (because of Improved Battle Shout), Pursuit of Justice (the speed increase can be covered by enchants/metas), Sanctified Seals (only because the crit % is weaker than some other talents on a point-for-point basis), Divine Purpose (because of its PvP orientation), and Swift Retribution (because it may be covered by Improved Moonkin Aura).
Combat mechanics and rotations
Okay, now that we've discussed talents, let's look at how a Retribution Paladin does his damage. In 3.0, you have a wide variety of abilities at your disposal, and the cooldowns... well they simply don't sync up. I've seen some theorycraft that attempts to determine the ideal combat rotation for Retribution, and it never comes out pretty. The most effective process seems to be to determine ahead of time (or on a per-fight basis) an order of priorities for your abilities, and use that to inform your decision making when cooldowns become available.
Maximum DPS output: Hammer of Wrath (below 35%), Divine Storm, Crusader Strike, Judgements, all others
Maximum Longevity: Hammer of Wrath (below 35%), Judgements, Divine Storm, Crusader Strike, all others
In the "all others" category belongs Consecration, Exorcism, and Holy Wrath. Obviously, the latter two are only useful against Demons and Undead. Consecration is a good ability for sustained DPS, especially on large AoE groups, but it's mana hungry. Holy Wrath is not as powerful as Divine Storm, but do not overlook the AoE stun potential.
WARNING: For pulls with CC, you must be wary of multi-target abilities. Up until now, Consecration was pretty much a Paladin's only way to break CC, but Divine Storm will do it just as easily, and it's terribly tempting to push that button. Be aware of your circumstances and know when it's inappropriate to use your AoEs.
Your melee autoattack, Crusader Strike, and Divine Storm deal Physical damage, while all of your other attacks deal Holy damage. The good thing about this is that, should you run into a magic immune or highly resistant mob, you can still do significant damage to it. Similarly, those three attacks are also usable while silenced.
While fighting, you will (hopefully) get critical strikes with Judgements and Divine Storm. When you do, The Art of War will give you an instant cast Flash of Light that can be used at any time in the next 15 seconds. Because of the Attack Power to Spell Power conversion, this heal actually doesn't suck. Its primary use is as an emergency heal for yourself should you take damage, but you can also throw it on another party/raid member if it'll help keep them alive. Do not forget about it - you may surprise people by actually showing up on the healing meters.
If your mana runs low, you will be able to use your Divine Plea ability (not available until the expansion) once per minute to restore 25% of your mana over 15 seconds.
Lastly, don't forget about your Hand spells and your Cleanse ability. You're not just a button-mashing melee machine; you can remove debuffs, reduce someone's threat levels, and protect them from physical damage. You can also use your Lay on Hands and Divine Intervention spells strategically to save or recover from wipes.
Picking a Judgement
In the new system, there are now three Judgements to choose from, each of which does damage (based on the Seal you have active) and applies a debuff to the target. These debuffs last 20 seconds and, unlike in 2.x, are not refreshed by melee attacks or Crusader Strike. Judgement damage is based only on the Seal you are using, so that's not a factor in your choice; the only question is what is most useful to you and/or the raid. Similarly, Heart of the Crusader applies its 3% chance to crit regardless of what Judgement you use. To make up for their increased general effectiveness, Judgements are now on the global cooldown.
- Judgement of Wisdom - This Judgement gives all attacks on the target a chance to restore 1% of maximum mana to the attacker. This effect has a 4 second internal cooldown. Given that this Judgement does not scale with AP/SP, but is rather a flat percentage of maximum mana, it doesn't matter which Paladin applies it. If there's another one in the raid, you should allow them to use it and use Light. Whether you use it if you're the only Paladin depends on how your group's mana is holding up.
- Judgement of Light - Like Wisdom for health instead of mana, except that its effect is not percentage-based, but rather scales based on the AP/SP of the Paladin applying it. It also has a 4 second internal cooldown. Give serious thought to using this Judgement if there's a Protection Paladin available, since he can apply Wisdom and your Light will be much stronger than his.
- Judgement of Justice - This Judgement prevents the target from fleeing (at low health) and caps its movement rate at 100% of base. It's very useful in PvP; in fact, it's one of your best tools for keeping opponents in melee range so you can do your business with them. In PvE, it's only really useful when you know mobs are likely to flee and pull others, and for whatever reason your Hammer of Wrath won't be sufficient to smack them down when they try.
Picking a Seal
In 3.0, Seals now last 2 minutes instead of 30 seconds, and even nicer, Judgements don't consume them. Seal of the Crusader has been removed, but the rest still function basically the same. The other major Seal change is that they can now proc on all types of melee attacks, not just autoattacks. To avoid this being horribly overpowered, there is now a 1 second internal cooldown on Seal procs. Keep your Seal up at all times.
- Seal of Light - It still gives you health. Quite a substantial amount, actually, considering that the return is based on AP/SP - you may consider using this if you desperately need healing. However, you can cast Judgement of Light without precasting Seal of Light, so throw this in your "almost never use" bin.
- Seal of Wisdom - It still gives you mana, but a percentage of your max. Since you have very little mana... yeah, it's not really worth it.
- Seal of Justice - The stun proc can be very nice in PvP. For PvE, it's forgettable, although you can have some fun with this along with Divine Storm.
- Seal of Righteousness - The damage increase from this Seal is overshadowed by Command (or even Blood/Martyr); it's only really useful if you have to throw on a shield to help tank. Righteousness is geared towards Spell Power rather than Attack Power; in the hands of a Holy Paladin it can be quite nasty.
- Seal of Vengeance/Seal of Corruption - Doesn't scale with weapon damage; in fact, the slower your weapon, the less efficient this ability is. On the other hand, the Judgement with a full stack of debuffs is quite powerful.
- Seal of Blood/Seal of the Martyr - This seal competes with Seal of Command for the top DPS spot. There's still a lot of theorycraft needed to determine which is superior; in general, if the self-damage won't put you at risk of getting killed by AoE or secondary attacks, you'll get a small DPS boost and the healing you'll receive will be a source of mana regeneration.
- Seal of Command - This should be the seal you use for any encounter where you can't count on receiving heals or you can't risk being low on health due to incidental damage. As stated above, there's a lot of theorycrafting about which is better.
Picking an Aura
- Sanctity Aura is no more in 3.0, leaving you with the aura that is named after your tree: Retribution Aura. Don't despair, though; it's buffed up the wazoo. It scales with AP/SP, gets a 50% boost from talents, and also (with talents) adds a 2% flat damage increase and 3% haste to the entire raid. This is your aura, a major part of your raid utility. Keep it on all the time unless the situation calls for a resistance aura or the raid leader tells you otherwise.
- Devotion Aura - It's no longer practical to spec for the improved version of this aura, so you'd only ever use it if your tank (other than a Paladin tank, obviously) desperately needs additional mitigation instead of additional threat.
- Concentration Aura - You have almost nothing that's subject to interruption, so let the Holy Paladins play with this aura. If you're the only Paladin and your casters are getting hammered by AoE damage, it might be worth using on a situational basis.
Other than Seals and Judgements, here's a discussion of your primary offensive abilities.
- Crusader Strike - Deals 110% of weapon damage on a 6 sec cooldown. It no longer refreshes Judgements, but it remains a core DPS ability, filling in gaps in your cooldown rotation - it works on mobs that are immune to magic damage, and you can also use it while silenced.
- Divine Storm - Deals weapon damage as Physical Damage to 4 targets within 8 yards, healing up to 3 nearby party/raid members for 20% of the total damage done, 10 sec cooldown. I discussed this above under talents, but it's a core DPS ability now. Just be aware of the potential for breaking CC. Divine Storm is also usable while Silenced.
- Consecration is an instant-cast AoE DoT with an 8 second duration and cooldown. It generates a moderate DPS boost at the cost of a lot of mana, plus all the usual risks associated with AoE effects. Since you get spell power from AP, and its base damage is based on SP, it's much better than it was before 3.0.
- Exorcism is an instant-cast nuke on a 12 second cooldown that works only against Demons and Undead. It's based on AP/SP now and the mana cost is actually tolerable, so work it into your rotation whenever possible.
- Holy Wrath is an instant 10 yard AoE on a 30 minute cooldown that works only against Demons and Undead, but stuns them for 3 seconds. Situational, yes, but it'll give your tanks and healers a wonderful break when you get attacked by swarms of Undead... which you know you will be in Northrend.
- Hammer of Wrath is an instant cast nuke on a target at 20% health or below, with a 6 second cooldown and a 20 yard range. This has gone from annoyingly counterintuitive in BC to amazing in 3.0, as you can get 50% additional critical strike chance, it scales with AP/SP, and doesn't interrupt your swing timer. Make it the highest priority in your DPS rotation once your target gets low enough on health.
Other mechanical notes
- Seal of Command, Crusader Strike, Hammer of Wrath, Divine Storm, and all Judgements are all considered melee/ranged attacks and use those mechanics to calculate crit chance and crit damage multipliers. All other Paladin abilities use spell mechanics. Since hit and crit rating now affect spells too, you'll get a lot of passive boost to those abilities from your basic itemization.
Retribution Paladins gain a 30% threat reduction from the Fanaticism talent, bringing their base threat output in line with all other melee DPS classes. Furthermore, Blessing of Salvation is now baked into all tank/DPS mechanics, meaning you automatically do 51% less threat than the tanks even before their stance/form/buff multipliers are considered. It is important to remember, however, that you are in melee range of the mob, meaning that you pull aggro at 110% of the tank's threat, rather than 130% for ranged classes. Also, you have no permanent threat dump (other than death), and no Feint or similar static threat reduction.
Some math follows:
Fanaticism threat multiplier: 0.7
Base tank threat multiplier: 1.43 (1/0.7)
Def. Stance/Bear Form multiplier: 1.45
Final threat differential: 2.96
What this means in simple terms is you can do up to 3 times the raw damage of the tank without risking pulling aggro.
The random/burst nature of Paladin DPS does cause some headaches for threat, however. You can deliver massive critical hits in very short order, resulting in nasty painful death if you don't maintain a sizable buffer between yourself and the tank(s). Your best bet, should you inadvertently draw the mobs' attention, is to cast Divine Shield. It makes you immune to damage for 12 seconds, but you can continue to DPS (or back off if needed). This can buy the tank time to pick the mob back up. You can use Avenging Wrath and Divine Shield at the same time, but be aware that you still generate threat while shielded, and when it wears off, the mob may very well go right back to you.
Although Blessing of Salvation is gone, the new Hand of Salvation has a very interesting mechanic. It reduces the target's threat over time, at the cost of reducing its damage done. With a 2 minute cooldown, you can use it several times per fight to help prevent one of your raid members (or yourself) from pulling aggro. Also in the threat management category is Hand of Protection, making you or another target immune to physical damage for 10 seconds and temporarily dropping aggro from mobs that attack in melee (caster mobs will often ignore the effect). It causes Forbearance.
You can act as a tank in emergencies by equipping a one-hander and a shield, but don't expect to last long. With a tanking set and Righteous Fury, you can generate a respectable amount of threat and function as an offtank, but your damage mitigation will be very low. Don't forget about your taunt (Righteous Defense) either. You can use it to save a squishier party member or draw a mob to where a real tank can pick it up. In a situation where where you must hold threat and must not die, cast Divine Protection - it works like Shield Wall, giving you 12 seconds of 50% damage reduction that may allow the raid to recover. Just remember that it causes Forbearance too.
Not directly threat-related, but you have two other emergency skills: Hand of Freedom and Hand of Sacrifice. Freedom removes all movement-impairing effects, which can free up a tank if they get rooted. More situationally, if you pick up the Divine Purpose talent, it dispels stuns as well, which can be a useful counter to certain boss abilities. Lastly, Hand of Sacrifice transfers 30% of the damage sustained by another raid member to you, potentially keeping them alive as long as you both can get healed.